Ep001: Christian Long on Design Learning

By September 29, 2016Podcast

In this very first episode, Dr. G is joined by Christian Long, a pioneer and advocate for re-imagining the role of education for our future generations. Having spent much of his life as an educator, Christian has now linked up with his architectural peers to re-design learning communities that are built around wonder, curiosity, and collaboration. He shares with us how we need to rethink our approach to learning, and how physical space plays a critical role in creating optimal learning environments. How do we evolve past century old traditions and rituals? What is the future value of a degree? What role does technology play in the education of our kids? How can space be designed to encourage wonder and curiosity? We discuss these and much more in our conversation. Now, That’s Unusual.

About Christian Long:

Christian Long, Ed.M. is the co-founder of WONDER, By Design, the “multidisciplinary design studio that is unapologetically curious about the future of learning.” In addition to a career in the school design industry, he spent 15 years as an educator, coach and experiential education leader in the US and Japan. An advocate for innovative learning communities, Long is a frequent speaker at a number of TEDx events and regularly delivers keynotes on the future of learning all over the world. He holds a master’s degree in education from Harvard and a bachelor’s degree in English from Indiana University. A novice farmer, Long resides on ten acres in Ohio with his wife Karla and their two children.

Key Interview Takeaways:

  • In the last twenty years, a shift has occurred in the way we view education. The two key components of this shift include:
    • Technology – With profound advancements in the digital tools available, there are opportunities for customization that did not exist prior to this radical transformation of our environment.
    • Teacher Worth – In the last ten-plus years, nearly everyone has become invested in the topic of education and considers themselves an expert. At the same time, career educators have been assigned less and less value. With this “tectonic shift,” the question becomes: Who is going to opt into the profession while society continues to degrade the role?
  • Innovation is difficult when we are unwilling to let go of the rituals and traditions (i.e.: an agrarian calendar, comprehensive programming) we have embraced for a century. At the same time, if we abandon everything that school has been in favor of a corporate model, we run the risk of losing the potential for community (relationships among teachers, students and their families) that makes our educational system a powerful human experience.
  • As increasing numbers of employers no longer see a college degree as an indicator of a candidate’s potential, we need to let go of the idea of college “at all costs” and instead focus on customizing practices to individual learners and their families:
    • Ask each young person, “What are you curious about?” and then provide them with resources and systems to foster that curiosity.
    • Stop thinking of students as a “team of one.” Evaluate what students bring to a team rather than assessing them individually against a law of average.
    • Shift away from the idea of a college degree as a finish line to an “ATM model” in which students have lifelong access to training, resources and opportunities through an institution of higher learning.

Learn More About Christian Long: